Written by Andrew Hoffman - November 2016
Fall is here and for a small subset of the local cycling community, #CrossIsHere. Cyclocross is a particular cycling discipline that blends the technical and off-road aspects of mountain biking, the intensity and circuit course aspects of criterium racing, and the potentially challenging weather of the fall and early winter months together. When it comes to the type of bike folks ride, imagine taking your road racing bike, compacting the geometry to get you a bit more upright and a little higher of the ground, and then throwing some wider and knobby tires on it. However, you’re likely to see a wide range of bikes and will see many people using their mountain bike, especially if they’re just getting started in cyclocross or taking in a race or two each fall and don’t want to own a dedicate bike.
Cyclocross is a discipline unlike any other, which is why so many people are complete fanatics about it after they give it a shot. Cyclocross combines the pace and feel of road biking and the fun and unpredictability of off-road racing. It puts you in touch with your physical conditioning, or lack there of, almost immediately after starting a race and it keeps you there for the 30-60 minute length of your category race. Cyclists and athletes love to know where their physical limits are because it validates all the work they’ve been putting in, gives them motivation to continually improve, and puts in perspective just how fast the top athletes in the sport are compared to ourselves. Many of us that have been logging lots of miles all summer get on the cross course in the fall and feel like we haven’t been training at all. And, we love it!
Most of all, cyclocross concentrates what makes cycling special to many of us, which is the community and relational nature that comes with cycling. Teams are a major part of cyclocross and the all-day nature of most weekend events creates plenty of time to socialize, encourage others, and to help each other out before or after our races. Go to a cyclocross race and you’ll experience great joy just being a part of the environment that is organically happening.
Cyclocross has been a vibrant part of the Fort Wayne cycling community for more than a decade thanks to the early organizers of cross teams and racers. Fort Wayne Outfitters and a leadership team of local racers that have been committed to hosting a weekly training race every week from mid-August to December complete with a taped course, the only one we know of in a 3-4 hour radius of Fort Wayne, is a huge reason cross stays relevant and why we have so many competitive racers on podiums of regional races come out of Fort Wayne. Local teams ebb and flow each season like any amateur race teams season to season, but one thing is certain, there seems to always be a core group of 30-40 competitive cross racers dedicated to representing Fort Wayne on a regional basis each year. Wagner Research/Summit City Bikes, Fort Wayne Outfitters, Team NeighborLink, and No Limits all have racers this season along with many unaffiliated racers.
If anyone wants to give cyclocross a try, please consider coming down to Fort Wayne Outfitters on Wednesday nights, rain or shine, for some practice and a practice race that begins at 6:15pm. Come watch or ride to see what it’s all about. If nothing else, come support another area of the cycling community in Fort Wayne. You can follow along with the local scene on the dedicated Fort Wayne Cyclocross Facebook Page.
Andrew Hoffman is the Executive Director of NeighborLink Fort Wayne.